Vim + macOS + Clipboard

Using system clipboard in Vim on macOS

When you do copy, cut and paste text in Vim it goes into Vim’s own buffer (register). Actually it has many registers, but we are’re interested only in primary (*, unnamed).

More details on registers in Vim:

:h registers

But it’s possible to make it work with system clipboard too.

Pre requirements

Vim requires the +clipboard feature flag to be set during compile. Let’s check if Vim has this feature:

$ vim --version | grep clipboard
+clipboard         +keymap            +printer           +vertsplit
+emacs_tags        -mouse_gpm         -sun_workshop      -xterm_clipboard

By default macOS Catalina ships without clipboard. But the good news we can easy install Vim with the +clipboard feature from Homebrew for example:

$ brew install vim


We can set default register to unnamed clipboard with command:

set clipboard=unnamed

More details on clipboard in Vim:

:h clipboard

I use shared .vimrc configuration file across different machines, so first check if it’s supported by Vim:

" .vimrc
" Set default clipboard register to system's unnamed
if has('clipboard')
    set clipboard=unnamed

Now commands like y and d will put text into system clipboard as well as p command will take text from clipboard.


Command Action
yw Copy word
yy Copy line
gg"*yG Copy entire file
y$ Copy till end of the line
dw Cut word
dd Cut line
d$ Cut till end of the line
P Paste before cursor
p Paste after cursor